Will Auckland Transport continue to have fingers in their ears
We should be celebrating public transport patronage especially rail patronage continuing to surge. But such celebrations are continuing to be marred by poor operations and even more poor communications by Auckland Transport who oversees the public transport system.
While private companies operate the buses and the passenger trains Auckland Transport is the overarching authority to both make sure contracts are upheld in operating running services and that prompt communications are sent. However, given the issues the trains of late and the incoming industrial action by bus drivers I am wondering how much longer Auckland Transport can continue with their fingers in their ears to the entire situation.
The bus driver industrial action situation is fluid and continuing to evolve as we draw to the 24 hour strike starting 5am Friday. Similar situations have occurred before which prompted the then Auckland Regional Council to hold the stick over bus operators to avert strike action in the Pre Super City days. I believe Auckland Transport did something similar three years ago as well.
I am hearing rumblings of the train staff not happy with their employer and Auckland Transport over safety on the rail network as well as continued high levels of fare evasion. While I am seeking confirmation in the latest concerns and possibility of action I know the issue on both safety and fare evasion has been ongoing since AT-HOP was rolled out in 2012. Given the rumblings, continued reports of assaults and vandalism, and high levels of fare evasion (it is more than what Auckland Transport will ever say it is) why is action is still a tad thin on the ground from Auckland Transport? I wonder if they have their fingers in their ears.
Then we come to Auckland Transport’s communication efforts which are dismal at best and non-existent at worst.
Today the power tripped on the overhead wires needed to power the trains on Auckland’s rail network. The fault was between Westfield and Wiri which is the busiest section of tracks apart from Britomart itself (although Britomart does not handle freighters). The fault lasted for four minutes. The knock on effects lasted for well over an hour with mass delays and cancellations right across the network. What is usually a 33 minute trip from Papatoetoe to Britomart took well over an hour. To make the problem worse even after the power restarted the Electric Trains were struggling to restart leaving passengers in the dark and with no air-con. Yes electric trains struggling to restart and I thought it was bad with the Diesels….
While the issues of back up and redundancy issues are ongoing (and have been risen before in this blog) and also needing to be sorted the issue here is communications.
See back in 2011 when I was with then Veolia now Transdev I was located in the control room that oversaw the passenger rail system. Your job was either coordinating service delivery or sending out text messages when problems occurred. Back then Twitter was around but not used to as greater extent as now and in any case that was controlled by Auckland Transport.
I then had made it my mission to get text messages out within minutes of the problem occurring and maintaining constant updates until the problem was cleared. If I was on the platform at Britomart it was to make sure staff were informed so passengers were informed. And yes there were some very long days as well.
Fast forward to today with the power failure. The failure was four minutes but the knock on effects are still ongoing. From feedback this morning this was Auckland Transport’s communication efforts:
- Power failure was at 7:32am and lasted four minutes
- First Tweet was not until sent until 8:10am. Auckland Transport were notified via Twitter on the problem from a passenger at 8:04am
- No text messages were ever sent out (if someone can confirm a text was sent out please let me know)
- Follow up tweets were sporadic
- Unclear if there were any PA announcements and if so when and how many
From 2011 when a text was sent out within minutes to 2016 when the first tweet is sent out 38 minutes later after the original fault with no texts sent.
If this is Auckland Transport ensuring customer service it might want to rethink that one very carefully. In the day of rapid communication, clear and prompt information is vital for a functioning city. No text messages and a tweet some 38 minutes later is demonstrating Auckland Transport does not think about the passenger one bit. Furthermore the text message system is in need of updating as well given the platform currently used is obsolete and no one can sign up to it.
So if NZTA can move quickly with tweets and updates on conditions of our roads and motorways why can Auckland Transport not move as quickly with tweets and updates on happenings with buses and trains? Heck they both share the same control room and have a direct link to the Transdev Control Room in Britomart.
If we are to be serious in continuing to attract people to the public transport system then communication (and service reliability) is a must. Time to pull your fingers out of your ears Auckland Transport and start listening…